What does it mean to be a professional gamer? Many people believe that having a career as a streamer is just about playing games online all day, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just ask Avori Henderson, who has made a career out of streaming, but that’s only one small part of what she does – and who she is.
Avori dropped by recently to speak with me about what got her interested in turning her gaming skill into a career, the day-to-day realities of professional gaming, and everything she loves about her line of work. It’s an experience as interesting and unpredictable as any hit title.
Brittany Frederick: What was the title that originally inspired your passion for gaming?
Avori Henderson: I was super into The Hunger Games [films]. Shortly after those movies came out, this style of game came out called “battle royale,” which is basically the exact same thing where you have like a hundred people, you’re thrown into a map, and the last one to survive wins.
When my friend told me that there was a game out that was similar to The Hunger Games, being in love with the movie series I was like no way, I have to try this. I tried it and I became immediately addicted. That was my first game that I ever played and from that moment on, I took on gaming as a career because of my love and passion for that game specifically.
BF: Which is an important distinction. There’s a big leap between just loving to play video games, and committing to professional gaming. Where was the turning point when you made this your career?
AH: It actually kind of happened for me on accident. I knew from a very young age that I did not want to go the traditional route of getting a degree and having an office job. I graduated high school early because I wanted to move on with my life. And then I ended up going to college and graduating college early as well. I just wanted that part of my life to be out of the way.
But while I was in college, I was pursuing a career in modeling and I actually made it pretty far. I got signed to the top agency in my city and I was really doing well with it. Then I discovered this video game, and with the knowledge I had from my degree, I was able to use my business and marketing skills to propel my career in streaming once I discovered that it could be a career.
BF: What’s the biggest thing that people don’t understand about professional gaming as opposed to just gaming for fun? There’s a large misconception out there that it’s just getting paid to play.
AH: I think a lot of people would be shocked at the business side of it. A lot of people think that we’re living the life – we just have this insane computer, we turn it on, we turn the camera on, we play games, and we make money. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The smallest portion of my job is playing the game on live stream. The largest portion of my job is all of the things that go on behind the scenes, before I even turn the camera on.
There’s so much setup – the equipment that I have to have, the setup I have to do to make the equipment run well. Working with companies, sponsors, doing branding deals, taking calls. Things like that are really what separates being just a casual gamer [from] being a businesswoman and running a professional-grade stream. Putting the camera on and actually streaming is the least amount of time that I put into my career.
BF: Every professional gamer has a different routine. What is your day-to-day like?
AH: I own two little pups, which are basically my world. I try and spend a lot of time taking care of them when I’m not doing my business stuff. But on a daily basis, I have multiple calls a day. So typically I’ll wake up, make myself breakfast, and I get right to work.
I also manage and I’m part owner in an esports organization called 303. We manage a lot of talent, aside from me being a talent myself. We help them develop their careers, so we do a lot of promotions, integrations with different companies, sponsorships, things like that. And then I also do those things for myself.
I also have agents, managers, things like that, that I have to meet with. They might contact me saying hey, I need you to meet with this brand or this company. They’re interested in doing a sponsorship or an activation with you. I take calls like that all day long. I also have to develop and run my own website.
So it depends on the week, but my mornings mostly consist of getting everything set up on the back end and then going live is the fun part of my job. I get to turn on the camera and just play games for a couple hours. And then [I go] back to having meetings, doing sponsorships, managing talent, things like that.
BF: Does your career change the way you look at a game release? Can you just play something for fun or do you tend to look at it from the business side first?
AH: There’s a little bit of that, but I’m a firm believer in your audience is only going to enjoy what you genuinely enjoy. I don’t take sponsorships if it’s not something that I truly believe in, and I’m a huge advocate for that.
I’ve had the idea of oh, this new game is coming out. I should try it and see how it is. You stream it a couple of times and if you don’t like it, you just go back to what you normally stream. At least I think that that’s the best way to do it; I’m sure other streamers have different ideas of that. But for me personally, I just don’t think it’s worth it to invest my time into something that I don’t genuinely enjoy.
BF: Speaking of enjoying, what are some of your other interests? Anything else you love that you’d want to pass on to readers?
AH: I’m huge into fashion. I was a model for about five years, so it’s one of my passions. I absolutely love pairing different textures together and putting together really amazing outfits. But obviously, that’s a super-expensive hobby; it’s not one that I practice a lot, but I’m very into it. And then the other thing that I’m into is my dogs. I absolutely love them. I’d do anything for them. We go on hikes together and they’re just the loves of my life. I absolutely love my dogs.
For even more on Avori Henderson, follow her stream on Twitch.